It’s that time of year again for “Innovation Tools,” the graduate marketing course at the University of Cincinnati. The course teaches how to use Systematic Inventive Thinking, a method based on three ideas. First, most successful innovations over time followed one of five patterns, and these patterns are like the DNA of products that can be re-applied to innovate any product or service. Second, innovation happens when we start with a configuration (the “solution”) and work backwards to the “problem” that it solves. It turns out that humans are better at this than the traditional “problem-to-solution” approach to innovating. Finally, better innovation happens when we start within the world of the problem (the Closed World). Innovations that use elements of the problem or surrounding environment are more novel and surprising. We innovate “inside the box,” not outside.
Students not only learn how to innovate, but they also learn how to link it to marketing strategy. We teach a bit of the Big Picture marketing framework so that students know how to tie innovation and strategy to create an innovation roadmap.
We have 45 graduate students, mostly from our master of science of marketing program. It is a diverse group and includes masters and doctoral candidates from other colleges. From this class, we created eight teams working different projects. The mix of products, services, and government programs should demonstrate that innovation methods can be applied virtually anywhere. Here are the projects: